02 May 2022

Using the Agile Scrum approach in your next project

Methodologies
Using the Agile Scrum approach in your next project

If you work in project management, particularly software development, it would be a big surprise if you haven’t come across the terms Agile and Scrum. But what’s the difference?

The first thing to understand is that they are not opposing but complementary concepts. Agile is more a set of principles, while Scrum is a project management methodology that applies those Agile principles. The Agile Scrum framework is only one of the many methods that follow under the Agile umbrella. An example of other well-known Agile frameworks you might have heard already are Lean, Six Sigma and Kanban.

So how can you use the Agile Scrum framework in your next project? Let’s start with a quick overview of both concepts and then look at the benefits they provide to project professionals in a variety of industries.

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The Agile way

Agile is a practice based on continuous iterations of development and testing. It’s characterised by a series of tasks that are conceived, executed and adapted as the situation demands, rather than a pre-planned process.

It was created more than 20 years ago by a group of software developers who laid out a set of 4 values and 12 principles. The values prioritise:

  1. individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  2. working software over comprehensive documentation

  3. customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  4. responding to change over following a plan.

Core to the Agile principles are people working to meet project goals in a way that is responsive to learnings and flexible over a project’s life.

Communication and human interaction are essential. An Agile team will modify a process to meet its own needs rather than forcing the team to work with a process that doesn’t quite fit. Iterative approaches and feedback loops that involve customers and critical stakeholders are vital characteristics. The commitment is to employ smart design and minimise, not maximise, the work effort.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide Agile: Everything You Need to Know.


Diving into Scrum

Amongst the vast array of methodologies and practices that Agile has spawned over the last 20 years, Scrum is perhaps the most widely embraced. Let’s look closely at what the Agile Scrum process is and a typical Scrum project flow.

With the Agile principles at its heart, the Scrum approach utilises cross-functional teams to deliver products and services over short time periods of 1 to 3 or 4 weeks. The short projects or blocks of work are known as sprints. With no more than a 4-week timeline, each sprint will have its own goals and work plan for the desired product increment or outcome. While each sprint's general scope, goals, and outcome are agreed upon upfront and fixed, the processes and methods employed are flexible and continuously optimised based on iterations and frequent feedback cycles.

There are clearly defined roles within the Scrum universe — centred around cross-functional Scrum teams that are self-organising and decide for themselves how to accomplish their work.

The product owner sets the overall direction for a project, which may consist of multiple sprints and is tasked with maximising the value of the team. The role that looks most like a traditional project manager is the Scrum master. They ensure the development team understands Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.

In line with Agile values — people and teamwork are central to Scrum. The product owner, Scrum master and the development team work closely on a daily basis. A typical Scrum flow starts with:

  1. The product backlog, which is a list of all the desired product features.

  2. The product owner and Scrum master prioritise the list based on user stories and impact.

  3. In the sprint planning meeting, the development team selects the tasks for the sprint and moves them from the product backlog to the sprint backlog.

  4. At the end of each sprint, the team and product owner meet to prepare the backlog for the next sprint.

  5. 15-minute stand-up daily Scrum meetings keep track of progress and deal with any issues.

  6. At the end of each sprint, a demonstration or showcase of the work the team has completed is held for review.

  7. Finally, a sprint retrospective meeting reviews the sprint and evaluates the work recommending any required practice improvements for future sprints.


Scrum and project management

Scrum is a particularly useful approach where requirements for a project are constantly changing, or the endpoint is yet to make itself completely clear. It is often used in software development where new versions or updates of a product are released on a regular basis, but the Agile Scrum framework is not purely for IT projects.

More and more organisations are making use of Scrum principles to manage non-tech projects in many industries and disciplines such as manufacturing, education, government, marketing, logistics and operations.


Using the Agile Scrum framework for your next project

Now that you have a clear understanding of what an Agile Scrum process is and looks like in practice, you might be keen to try it out in your workplace. Before you decide on the Agile Scrum framework for your next project, look at the specificity of the task at hand.

If you are required to abide by a strict process to manage the project’s lifecycle, more traditional project management methodologies and approaches might be better suited. On the other end, if a highly collaborative process involving both the internal team and the customer is possible, you could try including some elements of the Agile Scrum framework or embrace the product delivery method in its entirety.

Other factors to consider when deciding if you want to adopt Scrum as your next project management process are:

  • What are the project’s crucial variables, dependencies and activities?
  • Can the specific project’s metrics and success factors be effectively answered?
  • Do your company’s organisational structure and culture provide the right environment?
  • Are you and your team familiar enough with the Agile Scrum framework to employ it?

For Scrum to work effectively, it is best to follow its methodology very closely. In fact, there are whole courses and certifications built around it. At the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), we regularly run events and training seminars for our members, as well as host a lively online community and offer a comprehensive resources hub.

If you want to further your knowledge in Scrum and project management and have conversations on the topic with real-world industry professionals, the AIPM is here to help you build knowledge and excellence. Take a look at our membership page to see the exclusive benefits it offers and the skills and capabilities it can help you unlock.


CERTIFY YOUR SKILLS AS A PROJECT MANAGER

As you move through your career as a project manager, it is important that you can show potential employers you have the skills necessary for the role. One way of strengthening your CV is by obtaining RegPM certification, where you will be assessed for your skills and capabilities as a project management professional.

The AIPM will grant the Certified Practising Project Practitioner (CPPP) level of RegPM certification to individuals who have completed a VET course (diploma) or above on the endorsed course directory. Other certifications are also recognised. Please visit our National Certification page to find out more or reach out to us to discuss your previous experience and how it can be turned into a nationally recognised certification.
 

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